Japan took a commanding 2-0 lead on the first day of its Davis Cup World Cup playoff against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday despite the absence of US Open semifinalist Kei Nishikori.
With Nishikori unavailable for the host, world No. 72 Taro Daniel put Japan in charge of the tie, crushing Tomislav Brkic 6-4, 6-2, 7-6.
Ranked a lowly world number 240, Brkic was no match for the 25-year-old Daniel, who smashed down 15 aces to wrap up the rubber in just over two hours in Osaka. He had his chances to extend the match in the third but Daniel never looked in doubt in the breaker, taking it 7-3 just as rain began to fall.
“I couldn't be happier with how I played,” Daniel told reporters.
“The support really helped make it easier. You're playing for the fans in the Davis Cup, playing tennis from the heart.”
Yoshihito Nishioka punched above his weight in the second match as the world number 170 thrashed 79th-ranked Mirza Basic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to give Japan a huge advantage going into Saturday's doubles.
Japanese tennis is riding high, celebrating its first Grand Slam singles winner in Naomi Osaka, who stunned Serena Williams in a controversial US Open final last weekend.
Nishikori fell to eventual winner Novak Djokovic in the men's semi-finals in New York, meaning Japan had players in the top four in both draws of a major tournament for the first time.
Japan tend to struggle without Nishikori in the Davis Cup, however, and are in a World Group playoff for the fourth consecutive year after losing to Italy in 2017.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is through to this stage of the competition for the first time but will need a dramatic turn-around to secure a World Group berth.
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